Strike the first half inning from the record and the Blair Bears would've been winners on opening night.
“We were excited, and with excitement comes nerves sometimes,” coach Jennifer Fangmeier said Thursday under the Youth Softball Complex lights. “We just can't spot a team like that four runs with pitching like that.”
Right-hander Tori Kniesche and the Class B No. 6 Wayne Blue Devils — last season's Class C champs — scored four first-inning runs and beat Blair 4-2 in both teams' season opener. The all-state pitcher finished with 21 strikeouts, holding the Bears to just four hits.
“We knew, offensively, that we had to put the ball in play to force their defense to make plays if we wanted to win. We knew that,” Fangmeier said. “And it just didn't happen.”
But after that four-run first, the Bears did, arguably, control the action. They outhit Wayne 4-1 and outscored it 2-0 during the last six frames.
Defensively, Blair senior pitcher Tory Villotta composed herself after a shaky first inning and finished with 12 of the 33 total strikeouts in Thursday's game. The only hit the Omaha Marian transfer allowed after the first inning was a seventh-inning double that led to nothing.
Offensively, Samantha MacDonald — the Bears' senior third baseman — had two RBI swings.
“Sami's a really strong hitter and defensive player,” Fangmeier said. “We knew she was going to be strong and it was nice to see, in the opening game, for her to hit two doubles. I just wish we could have got her around.”
The third baseman pushed across pinch-runner Jerzie Janning with a hit to centerfield during the second inning. Then, during the sixth frame, she hammered a Kniesche pitch down the left field line to score freshman Allyson Lynch.
Villotta and Hannah Koch added the other two Blair hits. Villota's came on an infield knock, while Koch snuck a bloop into right field on the fair side of foul territory. That production, though, just wasn't quite enough against the Blue Devils.
“But tomorrow's a new day and we're really excited,” Fangmeier said.
Blair earns 4th in Bellevue tourney
The Bears immediately bounced back Friday, sweeping two Class A Millard schools during the first day of the Chieftain Softball Tournament hosted by Bellevue East.
BHS topped Class A No. 7 Millard West 11-7 first, then bested Millard North 3-2. The two victories earned coach Fangmeier's squad a shot at the tourney title on Saturday.
The Bears lost to Lincoln North Star 12-2 before dropping a 8-1 game to Elkhorn, finishing fourth out of 14 teams during the two-day tournament.
During the third-place game against the Antlers, Fangmeier's team was outhit 12-5. Villotta had two strikeouts in defeat.
Earlier in the day, the senior split pitching time against North Star with a freshman, Lynch. The Gators scored three first-inning runs before adding six more during the second to take control.
After besting Millard West by four runs Friday, Blair scored two fifth-inning runs against Millard North to go ahead by one run and win by that same margin. Villotta had three hits and struck out five batters in the win, while Lyndsay Rahlfs also knocked in a run.
The Bears fell behind West 5-0, but responded with an eight-run third inning. Overall, they outhit the Wildcats 15-7. Rahlfs, MacDonald and Hallie Lewis had three each. MacDonald, Rahlfs and Koch had two RBIs, too.